August 31, Friday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Not Placing Trust in Fickle People” 

Jeremiah 34:8-11 (NIV)  

The word came to Jeremiah from the Lord after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people in Jerusalem to proclaim freedom for the slaves. 9 Everyone was to free their Hebrew slaves, both male and female; no one was to hold a fellow Hebrew in bondage. 10 So all the officials and people who entered into this covenant agreed that they would free their male and female slaves and no longer hold them in bondage. They agreed, and set them free. 11 But afterward they changed their minds and took back the slaves they had freed and enslaved them again.

One experienced pastor once told me, “I love my church members. I just don’t trust them.” That idea stayed with me. Now, I need to be careful so that today’s QT does not inadvertently lead you to more cynicism towards others. I believe the pastor was encouraging me to always love the people around me, while guarding myself from mistakenly placing my trust in them.

Today’s passage takes place during a momentary lifting of the Babylonian siege (cf. 34:21; 37:5, 11); but during the siege, slave owners had actually freed their slaves.  Assuming that the danger was past, however, they decided to take back the slaves, which was contrary to the promise they had made to the Lord. If an Israelite could not pay his debts, he sometimes sold himself, his family, or his children to serve the creditor for a period of years. However, the Mosaic law provided for the freeing of Israelite slaves after six years of servitude (see Exod 21:2–11). Further reading of chapter 34 will reveal how much this infuriated the Lord.

Yesterday, in chapter 33, we looked at the faithfulness of God. Today, we see the fickleness of the human heart. In fact, the reason for the release of the slaves during the time of the siege may have been driven by selfish motives (though the reason is not explicitly stated).  It was not economically practical for the owners to feed and care for the slaves, so they released them to fend for themselves (New American Commentary).

Unfortunately, this picture of people’s sinfulness reminds us all that we cannot and should not place trust in man or even ourselves. Ultimately, all of us have sinned and have fallen deeply short of God’s glory. Not only are we fickle and greedy, but Jeremiah had earlier reminded us: “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (Jer 17:9, NTL). Certainly, we must love one another, but as for placing our trust, let’s place that in our faithful God.

Prayer: Lord, perhaps my disappointments come because I had placed unrealistic expectation on others. Help me to place my trust only in You. And help me to love and serve others, and when necessary forgive others when I’m wronged. In Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Job 11


Lunch Break Study

Read Matthew 13:21-35 (NIV): Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. 23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. 26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. 28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. 29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ 30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. 32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What does Peter’s question to Jesus reveal about our human condition?
  2. What is the master’s expectation from the servant whose debt was cancelled?
  3. According to this parable, what is it like to live in God’s Kingdom?

Notes

  1. The question reveals that in our sinfulness, we have a very limited capacity to show mercy and extend forgiveness.
  2. To practice mercy towards others.
  3. Living in God’s Kingdom allows us to show mercy and forgiveness, even if we have been hurt by others.

Evening Reflection

Are there people in your own life in whom you might be placing too much trust (parents, spouse, friend, co-worker) for your personal well-being? If so, shift your focus on trusting in God as your father, bridegroom, friend, and co-laborer.

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